The stay puff girl and the color pink

Vicky was the new girl in class. She was 6 years old and knew her mind. The little girl loved two things in life, the color pink and the Stay Puff character in the old Ghost Busters movie. She also was smart and had classic autism.

It was Vicky’s first year at Room 623. She had been in the PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) across the hall for years. Vicky’s teacher, Ms. Casanova, had the child visit her first grade structured for life classroom several times before the year ended. When she came back to visit during open house, Vicky wanted to see her old class. To her shock, there was nothing in the room.

The program had moved to another campus. The little girl shouted, “Oh, no…Oh no,” over and over while running through the class. Change was not easy for Vicky. The shock of not seeing anything in the PPCD unit was not a good surprise. The teacher took Vicky’s hand and asked the little girl to come into her new classroom.

At first, Vicky was apprehensive to go anywhere after experiencing the surprise of nothing in Ms. Casanova’s PPCD classroom. As Vicky entered the room, the teacher walked the girl over to her daily schedule. There was a big picture of Vicky on it. The teacher asked her, “Who is that?” The girl answered, “Vicky” with a big smile on her face.

The teacher knew it was not unusual for children with autism to answer in a third party response. Instead of me, Vicky was using her own name as she ran around the room looking for more pictures of herself. “There is Vicky. There is Vicky,” Vicky said as she ran around looking for more pictures of the students.

One of her pictures was in the science area, another in the language arts section, another in math, still another in the independent work area plus one for personal cubby.

The teacher could tell by the energy level, Vicky would need some sensory object(s) to help her transition between subjects during the first months of school. She had high anxiety and difficulty staying in one place. That was not unusual for students in her classroom. So the teacher asked Vicky’s parents what the girl loved. Their answer in part surprised her.

Vicky loved pink. Vicky also loved marshmallows and the Stay Puff figure from the movie Ghostbusters. Where on earth would there be a Stay Puff toy? To her surprise, the Ghostbuster toys had become be very popular. She found a stuffed toy from the movie for the girl along with colored marshmallows.

The teacher hoped that would be a good start for Vicky’s first days of school.

On the very first day of school, Vicky came to school bright and early wearing pink of course. As the girl walked into the classroom, there was a brand new Stay Puff toy waiting for her. She grabbed it immediately.

During the morning as Vicky began to run away from the activities, the teacher made sure that Stay Puff did not leave her work area. That made Vicky mad and she pouted when they wouldn’t let her take him from the work table. To the teacher’s surprise, Vicky showed no interest in pink marshmallows, or even white ones. She did like mini M&Ms, little goldfish and gummy bears.

As the child began to color a number picture from News 2 You, she began to scream, “I want a pink fish.” We allowed the girl to pick whatever color she wanted for the fish but the next page posed a problem. It was a number picture with specific colors for specific areas. The girl was quick to note that none of the words said “pink.”

It surprised the teacher but to compromise, the word pink was substituted for a red section. That worked. Vicky settled down with the revision as her picture had the most perfect color in the world on it, pink.” At the end of the first day, the teacher thought of the phrase: “looking at things through a rose colored glass”. Maybe, just maybe, Vicky was right to favor pink after all.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at downpamg@aol.com.